March is peaceful

NEW YORK – Over 20,000 peaceful protestors converged on the Waldorf-Astoria hotel here last weekend to protest the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting being held there. The WEF, which traditionally meets in Davos, Switzerland, is a gathering of CEOs from the world’s largest corporations, multimillionaires, kings and heads of state. In addition, the forum is attended by cultural, religious and labor leaders

Outside students, environmentalists, trade unionists and people of faith gathered. Protestors came to oppose various policies and practices of global capitalism, but many many signs, chants and sentiments took aim at capitalism itself. Instead of the poverty, environmental degradation and war of corporate globalization, protestors declared that “another world is possible,” a world of justice, equality and peace.

Another World Is Possible (AWIP) is also the name of the largest of the anti-WEF coalitions in the United States including such groups as Jubilee International, School of the Americas Watch and the Mobilization for Global Justice. At one point, the AWIP march stretched four blocks down 46th Street.

AWIP gathered thousands of marchers in Central Park early Feb. 2 where they were met by thousands of police in full riot gear. All along the winding march route, peaceful but lively protestors were met with police on horseback, prisoner transports and row after row of police. Many police wore disposable handcuffs on their belts.

Despite the hype, there were only 33 arrests during the massive protests on Saturday, of which 27 occurred before the march started in a “preemptive” strike by police against demonstrators police claim were planning to become violent. On Sunday, over 150 were arrested in small acts of civil disobedience and police clashes around the city.

The increased police presence in New York City began early in the week before the WEF meeting. Police were doubled up in subway stations and at the Gap clothing stores and Starbuck’s coffee shops.

New mayor Mike Bloomberg appointed Ray Kelly to be city police commissioner. Kelly just finished a stint in the Treasury Department where he was in charge of security forces such as the U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Secret Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Conferences challenging the WEF, neoliberalism and global capitalism were held around New York during the week leading up to the counter-WEF protests. Public Eye on Davos was sponsored by an international list of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and met at the United Nations Building.

The New York Social Forum was held at the Brecht Forum on Sunday, Jan. 27, and the WEF Counter Summit and National Student Mobilization was convened at Columbia University. The Nation and American Prospect magazines, along with the international forum on globalization sponsored a forum on Feb. 4, the final day of the WEF meetings.

Starting with last year’s WEF meeting, thousands of people respresenting hundreds of organizations from around the world began meeting concurrently in Porto Alegre, Brazil for the World Social Forum. This year’s World Social Forum was attended by 60,000 participants or more, including thousands of youth and students who camped out in tents near the convention site.

While the WEF is not a governmental body and doesn’t make decisions as such, its previous meetings are credited with leading to the creation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Uruguay talks, which created the World Trade Organization (WTO).

At the WEF meeting two years ago, 1,400 protestors were met with police violence in the little skiing village of Davos, where the WEF has met every year since 1971. Last year protests were banned, but the hundred or so protestors who made it into Davos led to street clashes with the police.

This year, the WEF moved to New York City, site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Police tensions in the city in the past months have been high. Some protestors wore stickers proclaiming that “protesting is not terrorism.” The anti-WEF demonstrations mark the largest demonstrations in the city, and perhaps the country, since Sept. 11, showing a shift in the public mood. “We can mourn the victims of Sept. 11 and still demand justice, demand a better world,” said Young Communist League member Abdul Hassan.